As we opened this year’s conversation with juniors and seniors, we used the word, “discernment.” Webster’s gives us this definition: 1: the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure : skill in discerning 0r 2: an act of perceiving or discerning something. It is a word that our Archbishop uses and that Pope Francis has written about. They are probably aware that the root word for discernment in Greek is “diakrisis,” meaning to select, assess, or believe. In the New Testament, authors used the word “diakrino” which means “to distinguish between people.” We challenged our youth to consider this last definition in their world today. As they begin to make some of life’s bigger decisions, how will they call on their faith, on God, to help them choose between the persons they could become, to believe who they are called to be.
We took time to share our decision-making stories and admitted that our choices aren’t always guided by our call from Christ, that taking time to bring our faith into the “pro’s and con’s” list can be hard, but when we relied on faith, we were more content with how things unfolded. Which is precisely what St. Ignatius has to teach us. The once extremely vain soldier learned that if he thought about how he would impress people in his future life, he felt empty; but if he thought about modeling his life after the saints, he felt peace. His reflections led to a conversion and St. Ignatius spent years writing about discernment. He left us with a few templates to guide in “finding a way of proceeding” with Christ. One of these is the Daily Examen which can help us be more present to God. ( https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/)
Big decisions can be challenging. But perhaps more important are all the little decisions we make every day. St. Ignatius’ encouragement to be present to God is a way to help us keep those little decisions on track with God’s desire for us. At the World Communications Day in 2018, Pope Francis reminded us why true discernment is so important:
“To discern truth, we need to discern everything that encourages communion and promotes goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide, and oppose. An impeccable argument can indeed rest on undeniable facts, but if it is used to hurt another or to discredit a person in the eyes of others, however correct it may seem, it is not truth. The truth can be recognized from the fruits it bears: it promotes informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue. Untruth results in quarrels, division, and resignation.”
It seems that what Pope Francis has said is valid whether we are speaking to ourselves or to others. He and the great St. Ignatius are coaching us to work at discerning truth in all we do and say.